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Google Should Not Be Making Mac and Linux Users Wait for Chrome!

Google should not be making Mac and Linux users wait for Chrome.

I know:

  • There’s a significant guerrilla-marketing campaign in action – the officially unstated competition with Microsoft for ‘world domination’. First Apple (with Safari), and now Google (with Chrome), is besting Microsoft Internet Explorer on Windows platforms. In revisiting the browser wars of the late nineties, it’s crucial for Google Chrome to go toe-to-toe with the competition. And whether we like to admit it or not, that competition is Microsoft Internet Explorer on the Microsoft Windows platform.
  • The Mac and Linux ports will come from the Open Source’ing of Chrome … and we need to wait for this … Optimistically, that’s short-term pain, long-term gain.

BUT:

  • Google is risking alienating its Mac and Linux faithful … and this is philosophically at odds with all-things Google.
  • It’s 2008, not 1998. In the past, as an acknowledged fringe community, Mac users were accustomed to the 6-18 month lag in software availability. Linux users, on the other hand, were often satiated by me-too feature/functionality made available by the Open Source community. In 2008, however, we have come to expect support to appear simultaneously on Mac, Linux and Windows platforms. For example, Open Source Mozilla releases their flagship Firefox browser (as well as their Thunderbird email application) simultaneously on Mac and Linux as well as Windows platforms. Why not Chrome?

So, what should Google do in the interim:

  • Provide progress updates on a regular basis. Google requested email addresses from those Mac and Linux users interested in Chrome … Now they need to use them!
  • Continue to engage Mac/Linux users. The Chromium Blog, Chromium-Announce, Chromium-discuss, Chromium – Google Code, etc., comprise an excellent start. Alpha and beta programs, along the lines of Mozilla’s, might also be a good idea …
  • Commence work on ‘Browser War’ commercials. Apple’s purposefully understated commercials exploit weaknesses inherent in Microsoft-based PCs to promote their Macs. Microsoft’s fired back with (The Real) Bill Gates and comedian Jerry Seinfeld to … well … confuse us??? Shift to browsers. Enter Google. Enter Mozilla. Just think how much fun we’d all have! Surely Google can afford a few million to air an ad during Super Bowl XLII! Excessive? Fine. I’ll take the YouTube viral version at a fraction of the cost then … Just do it!

For now, the Pareto (80-20) principle remains in play. And although this drives a laser-sharp focus on Microsoft Internet Explorer on the Microsoft Windows platform at the outset, Google has to shift swiftly to Mac and Linux to really close on the disruptiveness of Chrome’s competitive volley.

And I, for one, can’t wait!

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Synced-Data Applications: The Future of End-User Software?

I recently asked: Is desktop software is dead?

Increasingly, I am of the opinion that desktop software is well on its way to extinction.

In its place, Synced-Data Applications (SDAs) have emerged.

One of the best examples I’ve recently run across is Evernote. Native Evernote applications exist for desktops (as well as handhelds) and for the cloud (e.g., via a Web browser). Your data is replicated between the cloud (in this example, Evernote’s Webstores) and your desktop(s)/handheld(s). Synced-Data Applications.

And with Google Gears, Google Docs has also entered the SDA software paradigm.

With SDAs, it’s not just about the cloud, and it’s not just about the desktop/handheld. It’s all about the convergence that this software paradigm brings.

A revised version of the figure I shared in the previous post on this thread is included below.

Once again, it emphasizes that interest is focused on the convergence between the isolated realm of the desktop/handheld on the one hand, and the cloud (I previously referred to this as the network) on the other.

It’s much, much less about commercial versus Open Source software. And yes, I remain unaware of SDA examples that live purely in the Open Source realm …

Is Desktop Software Dead?

When was the last time you were impressed by desktop software?

Really impressed?

After seeing (in chronological order) Steve Jobs, Al Gore and Tim Bray make use of Apple Keynote, I absolutely had to give it a try. And impressed I was – and to some extent, still am. For me, this revelation happened about a year ago. I cannot recall the previous instance – i.e., the time I was truly impressed by desktop software.

Although I may be premature, I can’t help but ask: Is desktop software dead?
A few data points:
  • Wikipedia states: “There is no page titled “desktop software”.” What?! I suppose you could argue I’m hedging my bets by choosing an obscure phrase (not!), but seriously, it is remarkable that there is no Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”!
  • Microsoft, easily the leading purveyor of desktop software, is apparently in trouble. Although Gartner’s recent observations target Microsoft Windows Vista, this indirectly spells trouble for all Windows applications as they rely heavily on the platform provided by Vista.
  • There’s an innovation’s hiatus. And that’s diplomatically generous! Who really cares about the feature/functionality improvements in, e.g., Microsoft Office? When was the last time a whole new desktop software category appeared? Even in the Apple Keynote example I shared above, I was impressed by Apple’s spin on presentation software. Although Keynote required me to unlearn habits developed through years of use Microsoft PowerPoint, I was under no delusions of having entered some new genre of desktop software.
  • Thin is in! The bloatware that is modern desktop software is crumbling under its own weight. It must be nothing short of embarrassing to see this proven on a daily basis by the likes of Google Docs. Hardware vendors must be crying in their beers as well, as for years consumers have been forced to upgrade their desktops to accommodate the latest revs of their favorite desktop OS and apps. And of course, this became a negatively reinforcing cycle, as the hardware upgrades masked the inefficiencies inherent in the bloated desktop software. Thin is in! And thin, these days, doesn’t necessarily translate to a penalty in performance.
  • Desktop software is reaching out to the network. Despite efforts like Microsoft Office Online, the lacklustre results speak for themselves. It’s 2008, and Microsoft is still playing catch up with upstarts like Google. Even desktop software behemoth Adobe has shown better signs of getting it (network-wise) with recent entres such as Adobe Air. (And of course, with the arrival of Google Gears, providers of networked software are reaching out to the desktop.)

The figure below attempts to graphically represent some of the data points I’ve ranted about above.

In addition to providing a summary, the figure suggests:

  • An opportunity for networked, Open Source software. AFAIK, that upper-right quadrant is completely open. I haven’t done an exhaustive search, so any input would be appreciated.
  • A new battle ground. Going forward, the battle will be less about commercial versus Open Source software. The battle will be more about desktop versus networked software.

So: Is desktop software dead?

Feel free to chime in!

To Do for Microsoft: Create a Wikipedia entry for “desktop software”.

Launch: Silicon Valley – Still Time for Submissions

If you plan on being in The Bay Area early this Summer, you may want to take in Launch: Silicon Valley (L:SV). From the event’s Web site comes the following overview:

In its 3rd year, Launch: Silicon Valley is now firmly established as the premier product launch platform for cash strapped startups. The event, co-presented by SVASE, Garage Technology Ventures and Microsoft, provides the next generation of emerging technology companies with the opportunity to pitch their products to, and network with, an audience of Silicon Valley’s top VCs, Angels, corporate business development executives, prospective customers and partners, bloggers and media.

Launch: Silicon Valley 2008 is designed to uncover and showcase products and services from the most exciting of the newest startups in information technology, mobility, security, digital media, next generation internet, life sciences and clean energy.

If you are a startup, you have until May 9, 2008, to submit an executive summary relating to your product offering.
Having never attended L:SV, I can only state that this looks like an excellent opportunity for all stakeholders.
(Thanks to the organizers for making me aware of their event.)

Browser Wars Revisited: Safari vs. Firefox?

Seemingly not to be out-done by all the buzz surrounding Firefox 3, Apple today (March 18, 2008) released version 3.1 of its Safari Web browser.
Apparently, we’ll love Safari because:

  • It’s fast – Up to 3x Firefox 2 on page loads and 4.5x on JavaScript execution. And although that’s impressive, performance is definitely coming across as one of Firefox 3’s core competencies. It’d be interesting to run the same tests with Safari 3.1 and even Firefox 3 Beta 4.
  • The UI – Of course. However, this is another area where Firefox 3 has made significant headway. Even on a Mac, Firefox 3’s UI is also elegant and clean. (For an amusing take on the Apple UI paradigm, have a look at this Eric Burke cartoon. I’m not sure how Burke would represent the Mozilla UI … However, one thing’s for sure, it’s become a lot more elegant and cleaner over the years.)
  • Find – The Firefox 3 implementation looks remarkably like Safari’s.
  • Resizable text areas – Excellent. Not sure if Firefox 3 has this.

Safari 3.1 also presents a twofold irony with respect to Web standards:

  1. You need to do a little digging (page 8 of the Safari Product Overview) to determine what is meant by Web standards support. And once you do, you’ll learn that it relates to CSS, HTML 5 and SVG. Of these, “HTML 5 offline storage support” has the potential to be most interesting, as Google is analogously demonstrating with Google Gears. So, it’s ironic you need to dig for something that has such value.
  2. In it’s support of HTML 5, we have a commercial entity (Apple) leading the way in terms of implementing standards. This is refreshing in general, and in particular in Apple’s case, as traditional expectations would have the Open Source implementations (e.g., Firefox) ahead in this regard. To quote Alanis Morissette: “Isn’t it ironic… don’t you think?”

When you factor in support for Windows, and apparently frequent releases, it’s no wonder that Safari is gaining momentum at the expense of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox.
And not that I’ve been following developments with IE, but one has to wonder, if we are to re-visit the IE vs. Netscape browser wars of yesteryear, might the combatants this time be Apple Safari 3.x and Mozilla Firefox 3.x?
One can only hope!

Ten Tips for iPhone Competitors

The iPhone’s out!In no specific order, here are ten tips for competitors:

  1. Reaffirm your position. In the best-case scenario, this requires you to provide evidence or facts that your business is great. RIM provided a text-book example by boasting better-than-anticipated profits, a stock split and a new product offering the day before the iPhone was released. Nice work. Excellent timing.
  2. Ride the marketing tsunami. You have the market’s ear, so it’s an excellent opportunity to be heard. Take advantage of it. Again, RIM’s day-before triple play provides an excellent illustration.
  3. Flaunt the imperfection. Apple likes to make a big splash. And although the iPhone will offer a lot on day one, it doesn’t have it all. This presents an excellent opportunity to showcase the iPhone gaps addressed by your offering. For example, Helio will tell you that the iPhone doesn’t provide a chat functionality whereas their Ocean does.
  4. Be open. In many ways, Apple’s offerings are more proprietary than Microsoft’s. From anti-trust suits to informal banter, Microsoft gets beaten up on this on a daily basis. Despite a number of objections relating to the highly closed nature of the iPod, Apple gets off relatively easy. This may be an angle to exploit, but it’ll take some work. And Apple may have just made this a more difficult angle to exploit. How? They’ve made it clear that AJAX-enabled Safari is their platform for third-party iPhone developers. Based on JavaScript and XML, AJAX is about as open as it gets.
  5. Engage in coopetition. In some cases, it makes sense to juxtapose cooperation and competition. This results in coopetition, and examples of it abound. Although I wouldn’t expect Apple to be too receptive to a competitor’s advances at this time, it may still be possible to engage in a little gorilla coopetition. For example, iPhone competitors like RIM could offer feature/functionality enhancements to their desktop offering for Apple Mac OS X computers.
  6. Partner. Relative to Apple, RIM is small fry. (Forgive the hyperbole, I’m trying to make a point!) Through partnerships, however, RIM could reduce to topple the size imbalance. For example, a RIM-Google partnership could be interesting. With many of Google’s offerings already available natively for the BlackBerry, there’s an established starting point.
  7. Wire continuous improvement into your DNA. In other words, avoid the big splash. As captured by a recent item in Information Week, this is the Google way:

    Google Apps, which includes Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Start Page, received several other improvements Monday. This is in keeping with Google’s strategy of incremental product improvements, said Chandra, who noted that Google Apps had seen some 30 new features and updates in the four months since it was introduced.

    The Google way works, in part, because the Internet, Web, etc., have been wired into Google’s DNA from the outset. So, although the continuous improvement sentiment has wide applicability, adaptation is likely required to ensure effective execution. In some ways, Dell’s just-in-time approach to inventory offers an analogous potential for continuous improvement in the production of computer hardware.

  8. Leverage the marketing tsunami. Arguably, the iPhone introduction is taking Apple into new markets with a new product. apple_markets_products001.pngOf course, Apple has to some extent limited their exposure by making the iPhone a convergence play – Phone + iPod + Internet. This means they have both product and market experience they can readily tap. iPhone competitors can also leverage the tsunami from established products and markets to new ones. Perhaps more importantly, the presence of the tsunami that Apple has established means that others can progress systematically from an established situation to a new one. apple_markets_products002.pngFor example, a competitor could progress from an established product and market to a new market with the same product. Alternatively, the trajectory could be from an established situation to a new product for an established market. Such lower risk entrays have been primed by the iPhone tsunami, and iPhone competitors can progress towards new products for new markets incrementally.
  9. Balance awareness with distraction. This one is tough! You need to be aware of the iPhone, and all that that embodies, while at the same time not be distracted from your focus. By staying close to your customers, while being sensitive to the broader market that the iPhone and other products will drive, you will have the best prospects for ensuring success. In terms of something a little more concrete … Listen. If customers complain the your desktop software needs improvement, or that it takes too many clicks to navigate with your Web browser, listen. Listen and then address these issues as opportunities, one by one.
  10. Leverage your community. In the case of Apple, the community is so polarized that it’s been described as religion in the past. Although I haven’t studied it in a lot of detail, the Apple community appears to be a consequence of the cool and innovative way that Apple allows you to “Think different”. Engage with your community. Even though there are so many ways to do this, I don’t see enough vendors doing this.

Agree? Disagree? More tips? Please chime in.

 

DICtabrain: “Voice Powered Ideas”

In a recent post, I blogged:

… Jott goes a lot farther than my low-tech solution:

  • You call their toll-free number
  • You leave a message – your reminder, to-do, idea, etc.
  • Jott transcribes your message, and delivers the corresponding text to your phone and email

“Obscenely simple … incredibly clever” (Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech). I couldn’t agree more!

Unfortunately, I cannot attest to how well this actually works.

I live in Canada, and the public beta only supports US-based cell phones -(

Fortunately, there’s great news for us Canucks as DICtabrain is developing a similar solution 🙂

Although I expect to have more to blog about soon, it’s worth noting that DICtabrain:

  • Makes an explicit connection to blogging
  • Is looking for alpha-trial participants
  • Has their own blog

Some may be nonplussed by services like DICtabrain’s or Jott’s.

As DICtabrain’s James Woods blogs:

Some people will never understand the benefits of voice powered writing while others seem to be waiting for it with baited breath.

I think the reason for this disconnect is the creative process itself.

Some people need to internalize their creative process by working things through inside their heads.

Others need to externalize it. And its for the externalizers that frameworks like GTD and solutions like DICtabrain’s make complete and total sense. In DICtabrain’s words: “Good ideas are only valuable if they can be remember[ed] and then actioned.

With Jott and DICtabrain appearing on the scene with similar solutions within the past 3-4 months, it’s clear that there’s something interesting happening.

Perhaps Jott and DICtabrain have glommed onto a disruptive innovation.

What are they disrupting?

How about the dictaphone + analog/digital voice recorders + voicemail + technology for action management methods.

Collectively!

That’s an impressive disruption, and one of the reasons why companies like DICtabrain and Jott are likely to draw attention from the likes of:

  • Traditional dictaphone companies – ??
  • Consumer electronics companies – Apple, Sony, etc.
  • Telcos/Networking companies – Cisco, Nortel, Skype, etc.
  • Software companies – Google, Microsoft, Nuance, etc.
  • And others

With unified messaging a key deliverable of enterprise-class traditional PBX and VoIP solutions, injecting the DICtabrain or Jott solution into the mix could be quite interesting. For example when you have robust IP connectivity, you have the networked equivalent of Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Skype + (DICtabrain or Jott) … and potentially more!

To re-quote Christopher Null, Yahoo! Tech: “Obscenely simple … incredibly clever”.

Let me close (again) with a small dose of realism:

I haven’t been particularly impressed by speech-to-text conversion in the past. This will be the gating factor for me.